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Trying Way Too Hard

Trying Way Too Hard

Editor’s Note: Stephen Miller, known by hundreds of thousands for his YouTube channel The Miller Fam, shares the Gospel and the good stuff of life like a friend over the back fence (or screen). Enjoy this excerpt of his new book The Art of Getting It Wrong.

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I had my eyes on “making it” as a “famous worship leader.” I had already begun employing my old tactics to get booked to play at clubs and venues when I was doing those kinds of gigs. But now I was researching big churches and Christian conferences and events I could send my music to so I’d get to lead worship there. The bigger the church or event, the more people I get my music in front of, the bigger impact I can make for the glory of God, I would tell myself.

And there was one white whale I was eyeing. I had heard about a college Bible study in my home state of Texas that had about ten thou- sand college students attending every week. I just knew that if I could get a crack at playing for this Bible study, it would be the silver bullet that would catapult my career as a famous rock star worship leader.

I went about my usual routine of finding the point of contact and sending my CD with an exquisitely designed, full-color, four-panel press kit, complete with professional photos of the band, top-shelf biography, curated testimonials, and contact information.

In this particular case, Ben was the guy to talk to. I called every single week, asking for him.

“Hey, yes, this is Stephen Miller. I sent you my album and a little package of info about my band and myself, and I’d love to talk to Ben about the possibility of leading worship for your event.”

His assistant listened quietly week after week, and each week, she responded, “I’m sorry, he’s not in right now. I can deliver the message, and he’ll call you back.”

Time passed, and a call never came. So by that time the next week, I figured it was worth it to call back. No one ever got anything without persistence, right?

“Hi, it’s Stephen Miller again. Just calling to make sure Ben received the album I sent him. I’d love to talk if he has a few moments to connect.”

Same response.
He never called back.

This probably went on for a good three months until it kinda became a point for me to prove. It felt like a direct assault on my worth, and so I just decided to double down. When you tell someone you’re gonna call them back, you should actually do it. You can’t just dismiss people and brush them off. If you don’t want to talk to me, just tell me.

I’m guessing they decided the same thing and felt they needed to finally speak up to the kid who just wouldn’t take the hint.

“Hi! It’s Stephen Miller. Can I speak to Ben?”

“Look, man,” his assistant finally leveled with me, “you’re trying way too hard. If he wants to call you, he’ll call you. But you can’t just keep calling and annoying people to try to get a gig. We get a dozen calls like this every week. If we want you to lead worship for us, you’ll know it. But until that day comes — if it does — please stop calling. Until then, maybe chill out and be content where you are.”

Initially, the sting of rejection was searing. Somehow, subconsciously, all the times I had been told I wasn’t good enough came rushing in. And yet, simultaneously, the pain washing over me opened my eyes to that same conversation from a year earlier.

  • I was trying way too hard. I had been my entire life.

I couldn’t sleep that night. I tossed and turned until I couldn’t take it anymore. I got up and paced the living room for hours, having it out with God and trying to figure out what in the world I was supposed to do with my life!

  • I believe God truly cares about me and my life, even the small things, like when I’m brokenhearted and hurting.

And so that night, it felt as though God was meeting me in my living room to comfort me and give me peace. Not peace to justify my continuing to try way too hard. Not peace to keep trying to prove I mattered and had worth. But peace to understand the truth that I already had worth and value apart from my accomplishments and that as long as I was looking to prove I mattered, I was just gonna keep being robbed of the joy of knowing I mattered anyway. Peace to know it was gonna be okay.

What Has Comparison Brought You?

I didn’t need to waste any more time comparing myself with other successful Christian musicians or worship leaders. I didn’t need to wonder when it was gonna be my turn to make it. I didn’t need to be the one playing at that next big conference or event or having my song on the radio or climbing the charts. I didn’t need crowds of fans or followers or attaboys or applause.

  • I was already fully loved, adored, and cherished by God, who had already decisively proven it by dying for me on a cross and rising from the dead.

But even if I didn’t come from a place of faith where I believe that is true of me, what good would it do me to play a comparison game that only robbed me of my joy? What good does the comparison game ever do?

How does looking at someone else’s success and wishing I had it ever make me happier?

How does seeing someone else on vacation and asking, “Why can’t that be me?” add any joy to my life?

Has being envious of someone’s home or car or career or vacation or relationship ever brought me more peace? Or just less? I don’t know about you, but envy like that has never brought me more peace. Not once.

It’s been said that comparison is the thief of joy. It’s like a disease that just takes and takes and takes, stealing our energy and strength.

But contentment is the antidote to comparison. And contentment goes hand in hand with gratitude.

Yet, and possibly because of this, contentment seems harder and harder to come by. Especially in this day of social media where people only show the highlights, it’s easier than ever to feel like what you have isn’t quite enough. Your house isn’t Pinteresty enough. Your kids aren’t polite enough. Your marriage or relationship isn’t romantic enough. You’re not fit enough or pretty enough or hot enough. You’re not talented enough or wealthy enough.

I still struggle with this myself. Not in the same way I used to, but it’s still there. I wish I could say I’ve learned the secret of contentment, but to be honest, I’ve spent most of my life wishing for more. Some call it wanderlust. I don’t know if I would consider it worthy of a word so whimsical.

But in my quest to remind myself and everyone else that it’s gonna be okay, I wrote a song, and it’s kinda become the closing anthem of every video for the last two years on our YouTube channel. It’s called “Home.”

There’s a million miles I’ve traveled in my head, I can’t shake the need for somewhere else instead.

God, be my refuge, come calm my heart. You are my home.

There’s a million things I wish were different, Because even from this hell I’m heaven-bent. God, be my refuge, come calm my heart. You are my home.

For Your name’s sake,
You will lead me back home to You.

There’s a longing in me I can’t satisfy.
I got nothing here to show for all my strife. God, be my refuge, come calm my heart. You are my home.

For Your name’s sake,
You will lead me back home to You.

My greener pastures, my quiet waters, Here at Your table, I couldn’t want more. When mountains crumble and oceans roar, Here at your table, I couldn’t want more.

For Your name’s sake,
You will lead me back home to You.

The truth is, in most cases, we truly have all we need already. The grass is already greener where we are. The waters are already quiet where we are. We simply need to reorient our perspective. Gratitude helps us do that. It leads us to a place of contentment. It leads us to a place of joy. It leads us to a place of peace where we don’t feel the need to try too hard to prove anything.

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Pivotal Moment

Fast-forward fifteen years since those weekly calls with Ben’s assistant and Ben and I are friends now. We did a youth camp together recently, and in a Q and A we did together, I told the story to a bunch of kids about how I used to call him over and over and over and over, trying to get him to book me to lead worship for his Bible study, only to get the brush-off.

We just laughed, and while Ben apologized, I thanked him and told the audience that as much as it hurt, it was one of the most important, pivotal moments of my life. It helped me, in concert with a myriad of other experiences, to see that I could stop trying way too hard to prove I was worth something, because I was, in fact, actually worth something already.

And so are you.

You have worth and value far beyond anything you can comprehend.

You have been created by a God who loves you — and doesn’t just love you; He likes you!

Let me say that a bit louder for the people in the back. God doesn’t just love you; He likes you!

He’s not begrudgingly tolerating you because He has to. He’s God! No one can force Him to do anything. He’s not just waiting for you to screw up again so He can crush you. He lovingly created you because it made Him happy to do so. He looks at you like a really good Father who is just so proud of His kid — grinning from ear to ear with joy welling up in His heart every time He sees you. You can’t earn or create a better identity than that!

God gave you unique gifts and personality and passions because He wanted to. He sent Jesus to die on a cross to pay for your sins so that you could be completely forgiven of everything you have ever and ever will do wrong — every single mess-up, mix-up, epic fail, or whatever — and live with Him forever in a place where there is no sin or sickness, death or darkness. A place with no backstabbing friends or corrupt politicians. A place with no rush-hour traffic when your AC doesn’t work and it’s 110 degrees outside or being put on hold for what feels like hours only to be transferred to someone who has no idea what they’re talking about or accidently hangs up on you so you have to start all over. A place where you never have to fold kids’ laundry or peel boiled eggs again. (Can I get a hallelujah?) There is only beauty and perfection, and we are completely healed, whole, and happy — forever. Because God Himself will be with us in ways we could never comprehend, and He doesn’t allow all that crap to invade His presence. But He sure does love you, like you, and want you to be there.

Stop trying too hard and letting all that other stuff define you. Let it push you to realize who you were really created to be. That’s the greener pastures and the quiet waters. That’s where the real life is at.

  1. “Thankfulness Song,” track 7 on VeggieTales Sing-Alongs: Junior’s Bedtime Songs, Big Idea, 2002.

Excerpted with permission from The Art of Getting It Wrong by Stephen Miller, copyright Stephen Miller. 

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Your Turn

Did you hear that deep in your soul? You’re loved. You’re liked. You’re wanted by the God who created you on purpose for a purpose. You don’t have to try too hard for it. His love is yours already! Come share your thoughts with us. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily

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